Last week I told you that small consistent actions are much more important for your recovery than big plans that may or may not come to fruition. After a few weeks of downward spiraling, I realized that I had been so busy, I neglected my self care. I thought the actions I had been taking were either so small, skipping them wouldn’t make much of a difference, or I had worked at them long enough that I didn’t need to keep focusing on them every day. Well, one of the most brilliant and applicable quotes I heard last year puts it better than I ever could.
“People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.” –Zig Ziglar
In this case, I have found that motivation is interchangeable with recovery, self care, physical conditioning, and any other regular practice. Now that I have been reminded of the importance of DAILY self care, here are 3 of the things that, have a huge impact on my emotional state and recovery when I
remember prioritize doing them consistently.
1. Take a Break
When I’m in the sauce, work wise, I tend to push myself super hard to get to the next milestone, or accomplishment, or stopping point. I end up “negotiating” with myself that I can take a break once a particular task is completed, but because I’ve put so much pressure on that task and also because I still don’t feel like I can permit myself to take a break after completing it (because time keeps speeding by) I never end up completing the task and the stopping point never comes.
When I am not up to my eyeballs in overwhelm, it is easier for me to see that I am more productive, more focused, more able to complete tasks when I give myself permission to take a break. It could be as little as 5 or 10 minutes of walking around, taking a dance break for one or two songs, taking 20 minutes to watch something on the DVR, or doing something else I enjoy (I’ve been known to take a bake break… I do love baking). Taking care of myself, by doing things like allowing myself to take a break when I need it, makes me feel more willing, more enthusiastic and more able to focus enough to complete the task when I get back to it. Life is better when I remember that ‘time at my desk’ is NOT the same as ‘ time working / being productive’.
2. Feed Your Body
Another thing I do when I am under pressure, with too many tasks and not enough time, is not feed myself properly (by “properly” I don’t mean good/bad food choices, as defined by the American mainstream). This is closely related to my previous point of just not allowing myself to get up from my desk, but in addition to the conflict between productivity and my inner rebel, this one also has physical ramifications.
Having abused my hunger signals for a significant portion of my life, I am still ‘new’ to recognizing and honoring them. For example, two of my most usual, earliest, strongest signals are headaches and inability to focus. In the past I never considered that these things might be connected to each other. For one thing I figured I was fat enough to go without food for a good long time, but as it turns out, that’s not really how our bodies work. Bodies need fuel. Regularly. Sure, we will eventually dip into our reserves, but a series of things has to happen first, including signals to refuel and, if that doesn’t happen, conservation mode of the fuel that is left.
Even though I now KNOW that not fueling my brain and my body properly makes it very difficult for me to get stuff done, I’ve become so accustomed to taking care of myself last, that when I get into stress/panic mode I default to prioritizing work over nourishment. One of our current “favorite” marketing buzzword bingo phrases is “you can’t sell from an empty wagon.” Life is better when I remember to nourish my body and make sure my wagon is fully stocked before I try to sell from it.
3. Connect / Get Support
This last one (for today) really snuck up on me the last time life started feeling darker again. As you may know, if you’ve been following along for a while, I participated in an intensive outpatient program for eating disorders. When I was in the program, we met for 3 hours of group therapy a day, anywhere from 1 to 3 times a week. Since leaving the program, I’ve been going to after care with other former “patients” once a week for an hour. After care had been getting pretty easy lately. Everybody in the group seemed to be maintaining pretty well and sometimes we don’t talk about much more than what we’ve been up to the previous week. While I enjoy going, and I still learn and grow in that group, I didn’t really feel like it was helping me much anymore.
Then my travel schedule got a little crazy and it just so happened that I was traveling, or after care was cancelled every single Wednesday (the day after care meets) for two months! I didn’t really notice how much I was missing the weekly connection and the processing of minor things until things were totally out of control and I was looking back wondering what had gone so terribly wrong.
There was nothing I could do about the scheduling conflict, but I could have reached out to my friends from that group on other days. The point of this story is that the regular meetings are PREVENTATIVE. By the time I am aware that I NEED to go, I’m already way down the rabbit hole and it takes much more time and effort to get back to neutral.
Obviously your mileage with these particular items might vary. Maybe I’ll post some more generic actions next week. The bottom line still remains that self care is incredibly important for your emotional wellbeing. Listen to yourself. Figure out what your body and soul are asking for and trust yourself to meet those needs. And always start with love.